CNN Mission: Peace

Transfer of authority in Bosnia

From Military Analyst Lt. Gen. Marvin Covault (U.S. Army ret.)

December 20, 1995

(CNN) -- What is the transfer of authority, and why is it important?

The United Nations has had an ad hoc military command in Bosnia and Croatia for more than three years. Their mission has often been mistakenly reported as "peacekeeping." Not so: There has been no peace to keep. They have been in Bosnia to assist relief agencies and have had little influence on the warring factions.

One of the major provisions of the Dayton peace plan is the replacement of U.N. troops with NATO forces. With this change comes a new, different military mission, and a specific different set of tasks to be performed. NATO will undertake a peace enforcement mission, the assumption being that the parties will not voluntarily comply with the provisions they agreed to. If we believed they could be trusted, why send 60,000 NATO troops into Bosnia in the next eight weeks?

Background: The peace plan was initialed in Dayton on November 21. The plan was signed in Paris on December 14. During the night of December 17-18, the ruling body of NATO, the North Atlantic Council, approved taking on the peace enforcement mission. Almost simultaneously, the U.N. Security Council passed the required resolutions. All that brings us to the "transfer of authority" on December 20.

Transfer of authority means that NATO, with its in-place integrated command, control and planning capability, assumes total responsibility for all military operations in Bosnia. This is much more than a change of commanders. The circumstances, the mission and the rules of engagement are new.

NATO is in the process of deploying a classic military organization with a trained and ready headquarters at the theater level (under U.S. Adm. Leighton Smith), the corps level (under British Army Lt. Gen. Mike Walker), division level (a 15,000- to 20,000-man organization), brigade level (3,000 to 4,000 troops), and battalion level (600 to 800 troops).

These headquarters all have sectors of responsibility. For example, Smith, the I-FOR commander, is responsible for all forces in Bosnia as well as supporting forces in Croatia, Hungary, Italy, the Adriatic Sea and air space -- the entire "theater." A battalion commander with his 600 to 800 troops will be responsible for a few miles of the zone of separation between the warring factions. But just as important as the command elements, the chain of command, of these headquarters is the staff expertise in logistics, communication, and intelligence that make up these theater-wide systems. The important point here is that none of this was in place under the U.N. ad hoc military operations.

The other significant factor associated with the transfer of authority is that it starts the clock. The military milestones to be met as part of the peace plan key off the transfer date. To highlight a few, the wavering factions must by:

December 23 (transfer of authority, or TOA, plus 3 days) -- Shut down all early warning, air defense and fire control radars.

January 19 (TOA plus 30 days) -- Establish a two and a half mile zone of separation all along the confrontation line.

January 19 -- Remove all mines, weapons and military emplacements from the zones of separation.

January 19 -- Withdraw all foreign factions who have been supporting the warring factions.

January 19 -- Report all mines and unit strength throughout Bosnia.

February 3 (TOA plus 45 days) -- Withdraw all forces from areas being transferred to another entity.

April 18 (TOA plus 120 days) -- Withdraw all forces and heavy weapons to barracks/containment areas.

Having made the case that this is a NATO operation, it is important to note that as many as 15 non-NATO nations may be involved. They will, however, be strictly under NATO command and NATO rules of engagement and, unlike the U.N. command, will not take mission orders directly from their government. The non-NATO forces will operate under the command of one of the three divisional commanders (U.S., British or French two-star generals).

So, what is the transfer of authority? It is a total military transformation inside Bosnia. Why is it important? It starts the clock on enforcement of the peace.

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